But East Palo Alto Today is a shoestring effort with volunteer staff and minimal funding. Whether it will last is an open question.
"This is the hardest thing I've ever done," Founder/Editor Henrietta Burroughs says. Burroughs, who is African-American, works at a desk in the basement of the Community Development Institute on Bell Street in East Palo Alto.
In a sense, she is the paper.
She encourages people to submit articles, which she edits. She personally distributes the paper -- 8,000 copies two weeks ago. She hopes there will be a next edition, and one after that.
Burroughs, a Palo Alto resident, wrote for the New York Post in the 1970s. She then earned a master's degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism, transitioned into television news and worked in New York and New Jersey for seven years before moving to the Bay Area.
She then read editorials on-air for KNTV in San Francisco. She presently hosts a local cable-television program, Talking With Henrietta, for the Midpeninsula Community Media Center.
The newspaper is Burroughs' second foray into East Palo Alto media, but the newspaper isn't the first home-grown media there.
She was, briefly, the first content director for www.EPA.net, a Web site reporting news and events in East Palo Alto, launched in September 2002.
She was fired by the site's sponsor, the non-profit Plugged In, barely a couple of weeks after the launch. She offended an official in the Ravenswood City School District -- who also served on Plugged In's board -- by seeking community feedback on what people would change about the district.
East Palo Alto Today's first issue doesn't have anything controversial in its articles, printed in English and Spanish. But it's hard to report news and events in the city without encountering choppy waters. Coverage of controversies is coming.
"That's what the heart of East Palo Alto news is about," Burroughs said. On outside-media coverage of the city, Burroughs said, "If I thought the coverage was complete, there would have been no reason to have a newspaper."
"There is a level that isn't being covered (by outside media)," agrees EPA.net's current Director Michael Levin, who welcomes the paper. "There is something universal about holding a newspaper. A Web site just isn't like that."
Burroughs wants the paper to reflect the community and be a reliable source of information for residents, as well as for residents of the adjacent Belle Haven neighborhood in Menlo Park.
The paper will publish weddings, births and deaths, Burroughs said, along with letters, columns and news.
Its published policy is to be "dedicated to conscientious journalism. We maintain this commitment by seeking and reporting the truth, acting with integrity and serving the public interest."
How events are covered can raise hackles.
When a former East Palo Alto police chief, then working in another community, was arrested on a domestic-violence charge years ago, the headline in the San Jose Mercury News was "Ex-East Palo Alto police chief arrested." Former Mayor Sharifa Wilson and other City Council members drove to San Jose and gave the Merc's publisher an earful.
"One of the frustrations over the years is that coverage has portrayed negative activities," Wilson said. "This (newspaper) will appeal to people in the community."
When Burroughs dropped off the first issues at City Hall two weeks ago, she got hugs from city staff.
But she knows much hard work lies ahead.
That work shouldn't be borne by Burroughs alone, Stanford communications professor Ted Glasser feels.
"It's a shame that they will have to struggle for funding," he said. "This is a journalism-community challenge, and the journalism community is not rising to the challenge."
Non-East Palo Alto residents will soon be able to see the newspaper online at www.epatoday.org, Burroughs said.
Read all about it.
This story contains 699 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.